I'm the son of a union carpenter and grew up in a time when a family could live pretty well on what ONE skilled craftsman brought home after a forty-hour week. We could celebrate the ability of American workers, we could sleep with full bellies under a leak-free roof purchased with fair wages fought for by organized labor. We had some notion of what Labor Day meant as we ate our slice of American Pie.
The slice, it appears to me, has shrunken considerably for the average working schmuck, even as the productivity of American workers hit an all-time high last month. Labor unions seem to be widely viewed as luxuries our society can no longer afford, in an age that allows easy exploitation of the world's most impoverished, wherever they are found, whatever form of slavery they can be forced into.
So, does the worker from the U.S. or any other rich, developed nation deserve more than one from a country teetering on starvation's brink? Of course not. But any worker, from anywhere, deserves some bit of dignity, some idea of parity, some ability to earn what it takes to feed, shelter, and clothe a healthy family. "Workers of the world, unite." they used to say, but "they" were commie bastards who are in some disfavor these days. Still, until it happens, we will only celebrate a meaningless Labor Day, with most of our picnic goodies supplied by the outsourcers as we wave American flags made in China (the home of ACTUAL commie bastards).
What do I know, viewing as I do, the working world from the safe distance of my Social Security dole? Not much. Not much. But I do see my children and grandchildren having, quite possibly, less opportunity than I had. Some of this, of course, is my own fault for believing that I, too, could work just forty hours per week. Some of it, though, is due to the devaluation of working people and of work, itself. And some of it makes Labor Day, for me, a bitter remembrance of a better time.
~ Ralph Murre